Archive for June, 2015

Nice Try

June 29, 2015

Already efforts are underway to protect pastors from being forced to conduct gay marriages.  I don’t think these will be effective in the long run.  They may not even be effective in the short term, depending on how aggressively people want to push this issue.  It’s going to be an interesting rest of my life…

Advertisements

Reading Ramblings – July 5, 2015

June 28, 2015

Reading Ramblings

Date: Sixth Sunday after Pentecost – July 5th, 2015

Texts: Ezekiel 2:1-5; Psalm 123; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10; Mark 6:1-13

Context: Wow. If I could have hand-picked readings appropriate after the landmark Supreme Court case just over a week ago, these would have been perfect. Even the Epistle lesson, which during this time of the liturgical church year isn’t necessarily supposed to align with the Gospel and Old Testament themes, even the Epistle is impactful and relevant. Where is our hope, and what is our duty? Our hope is in the Lord, and our duty as the Church is to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as our hope in this life and eternity, regardless of how the message is received by those around us. It is natural to lament what we see as tragic turns of events in our country, but we not only should not lose hope, we must not.

Ezekiel 2:1-5 – Although Ezekiel’s call to prophetic ministry is in the second chapter of this book, the scene begins to unfold in chapter one, and this is just the continuation and culmination of the background laid there. Ezekiel is given a vision of God in his glory, and during this vision God calls Ezekiel to be his prophet. We might think that this is a great glory – and it is! However it is not an easy task. God describes the people to whom Ezekiel will speak – God’s own people, but hardly an obedient people. They are rebels not merely in history but currently. They are sinners not only historically but continuously. Even their children who are not yet full grown demonstrate these characteristics, modeled for them by their parents. These are the ones Ezekiel will speak to, and we can imagine the poor reception he can expect when he does. Yet Ezekiel is not to fear. It isn’t that he won’t experience suffering – he will find himself in the midst of briers and thorns and sitting on scorpions! It isn’t that he should not fear what they might do to him, he is to not fear their words or their looks. He is not to be scorned or shamed into silence by the disapproval of his recipients. This remains the calling of Christ’s Church. Regardless of the way the world views us, the scorn or shame that is heaped upon us, we are not to fear these things as real or true. We are to stand firm and speak the Word of God to the world – the fullness of God’s Word. Both the Law which convicts and the Gospel which saves.

Psalm 123 – This psalm beautifully picks up on this theme and prepares us for the theme played out again in the Gospel. Our hope is not in this world, neither its decrees or its opinions. These are transient and inherently broken and sinful things. We must have the steadfastness of a servant or slave who discounts whatever is going on around them and whatever is being said to them, focusing only on the approval of their master. No other approval matters. So God’s people in all times and all situations must fix their eyes on God and his Words, finding there the approval so often withheld by the world, finding there the assurance and strength to hold fast despite the scorn and contempt of the world. We should expect such scorn and contempt! We do not seek it and it is never enjoyable or easy and it may indeed be as deadly to us as sitting on a nest of scorpions. But our hope is in the Lord who frees the prisoner and raises the dead and promises us that the suffering and scorn of this world will one day be turned to joy and laughter forever.

2 Corinthians 12:1-10 – Many scholars believe that Paul is referring to himself in the first four verses of this section. In other words, Paul has just recounted the sufferings he has endured for the sake of the Gospel, highlighting his humility in all situations. But lest his hearers/readers assume that anyone so persecuted and afflicted is deserving of such treatment, or has nothing of value to offer, Paul goes on in chapter 12 to refute such notions. He has received visions and experiences that are unparalleled. To one who has seen such amazing and wondrous things (we might think of Ezekiel’s experience in the first two chapters of that book!), Paul is afflicted. What the thorn in his flesh is scholars debate rather heatedly. Despite Paul’s repeated attempts to convince God to remove this affliction, God has not. In fact, God has assured Paul that He will not, because in Paul’s suffering and imperfection, others may more clearly see God and Paul will not mistakenly identify God’s power and sustenance as his own. We too, who have glimpsed the glory of God in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who are gathered together around the Lord’s table to taste forgiveness and grace, we must never confuse God’s power for our own, and we should never assume that suffering is contrary to the purpose of God that all might come to saving faith in his Son.

Mark 6:1-13 – Many of us have stories similar to this. Our attempts to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those closest to us, perhaps our own family, are met with scorn and derision. Rather than hearing the message they focus on the messenger (us!). Rather than evaluate the truth of the words spoken, they evaluate the worthiness of the messenger and take offense that we would take it upon ourselves to lecture or speak to them. Jesus knows this pain firsthand, rejected by the townspeople he had grown up with!

Jesus might have given up there. He might have decided that the townfolk were right, that He really didn’t have a calling or a ministry to fulfill. He might have listened to their words of derision and looks of scorn and dispersed his disciples and gone back to carpentry. We must remember that Jesus is fully human, and that this likely was not just an unpleasant experience, but an actual temptation to abandon his calling by God!

Jesus does not give in to this temptation though. Sure of his words and calling He moves on, going to other towns to share the Good News. Not only this, He commissions his disciples for their first missionary journey, sending them out to prepare the surrounding countryside for his travels and visits. Even here He fully acknowledges that not everyone will receive their words joyfully. Rather than becoming discouraged or exhausting themselves in trying to argue with people, the disciples are simply to move on. Someone else will hear or listen. The Good News will continue to go out. Some people will refuse to receive it but their refusal is not an accurate assessment either of the message or the messengers.

We should take hope in the midst of challenging times in our own country. We have praised for decades and centuries the faithfulness of Christians in other countries who endure suffering of various kinds because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Who are we to assume that we ourselves should not now learn what this means firsthand? Are we somehow better, that we should not suffer scorn and derision? Perhaps we have assumed such. We have assumed that our cultural connection was strong enough to endure indefinitely, and that Satan would not be able to turn our culture away from the Judeo-Christian values and beliefs that made this nation possible. That is our foolishness, a foolishness our forefathers didn’t share.

We take hope in the Gospel, not in the laws of our land or the acceptance of our culture. We keep our eyes fixed on Christ and we continue to proclaim the Word of God in fullness – both the Law which convicts everyone of sin and rebellion, as well as the Gospel which offers amnesty and forgiveness to those who will receive it on God’s terms rather than their own. This is our privilege and duty. We will get dirty looks and we will be scorned and ridiculed in the public square. But the Good News will continue to transform individual lives one at a time by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hope

June 28, 2015

I find it ironic that our emerging state religion, secular humanism, has caused the exact opposite of what it promises.

Secular humanism essentially puts mankind in the place of God.  God is relegated at best to an unknown entity that cannot be known or relied upon in an meaningful way. Humanity steps into the void.  Secular humanism insists that we ourselves will accomplish a return to Eden, or better yet, we will construct a new and better Eden than that mythical fairy-tale place discussed in the Bible.  The benefits of rationalism and modern science are employed towards this end.  We will eliminate those traits in humanity that are self-destructive.  We will do this by legislating our own definitions of morality and eliminating opposition.  We will do this through better health and wellness that gradually eliminate or curtail major illnesses and diseases, and may even dramatically extend our lifespans.  We will do this through eugenics and the elimination of the unwanted children that are naturally the byproduct of unfettered sexual liberty – the poster child for secular humanism.

All of this should give us greater confidence in our selves and our future.  We are moving towards a glorious, brighter future, ever onwards and upwards.  Always improving.  Dealing with temporary setbacks but inevitably marching forward towards our true, self-determined destiny as not only the masters and saviors of this particular planet, but potentially of the entire universe.  We ourselves will provide tangible, rational reasons for hope.

But it seems that the reality is that people have less hope and confidence, rather than more.  In kicking God to the curb, we eliminate the only real source of certainty in a universe filled with unpredictability and uncertainty.  We not only don’t know what we need to know to have hope, we are increasingly less certain that we can even know these things.  And in the face of our biggest uncertainty, our ancient fear – death – secular humanism leaves us patently bereft of any form of hope.  If there is nothing after this life, the assurance that one day we might conquer death leaves absolutely zero hope for those who face it here and now.

I was struck by all of this in reading a news report about Joni Mitchell, the legendary singer-songwriter.  She suffered an aneurysm in March and was not discovered for some time afterwards.  Reports are scarce and apparently conflicting regarding her current condition.  Her representatives and web site insist that she’s conscious and gaining strength daily.  Her friends report that she is not doing nearly so well as might be inferred from such statements, and that she might even be comatose.  These reports have circulated for the last several months despite vigorous, official denials by her representatives.

This article summarizes an interview with David Crosby, a long-time friend of Mitchell’s.  The final statement at the end of the article was chilling to me.  As we face the mortality of our friends and loved ones and even ourselves, what confidence do we have?  None, apparently.  “I think we’re all holding our breath and thinking of goodbye, you know?  And hoping it’s gonna turn out OK.”

What does this mean?  It seems to mean that the hope in this situation is that Mitchell recover.  That she regain her former strength and vigor.  But it was this same strength and vigor that failed her in the first place!  So our best hope is that we get well enough again to be vulnerable to another devastating and likely unexpected health failure?  Gee, that’s so hopeful.  Not.

It’s so easy to think this way, to imagine that what we hope for – or more specifically, what we pray for – is recovery.  But for the Christian this is not our ultimate hope and prayer.  Goodbyes are hard and painful and sometimes they seem so premature and unnecessary.  But, barring our Lord’s return first, we’re all going to die.  The human mortality rate is a perfect 100% with only one exception, the man Jesus of Nazareth who claimed to be the Son of God and claimed the proof of this would be not just his innocent suffering and death, but more importantly his resurrection from the dead.

As such, because of the eye-witness reports of an actual event in human history, followers of Jesus the Christ have hope.  This might sound silly, because it might seem that anybody can and would make up the report of a dead person coming to life and thus give false hope to humanity.  But it turns out that such claims are exceedingly rare, and almost universally discreditable.  Assertions that someone dead not for just a few seconds or even a few minutes has come back to life are strangely rare.  And such assertions that have stood the test of time for 2000 years, that were public and should have been easily exposed as a ruse by those with the resources and vested interest in such exposure, those are non-existent except for Jesus of Nazareth.

We have hope in Christ.  Not hope in medicine or science or technology, though these are all wonderful things that are capable of making our lives much better.  Not in governments or philosophies or ideologies, because these at best can only point us to the sure promises of God, and at worst can actively steer us away from him.  My hope as I face death is not that maybe my kids won’t have to stare into this abyss, but rather that this abyss has been conquered.  There is a path not only into it but through it, as evidenced by the resurrection of the Son of God 2000 years ago.  My hope is not to cheat death or delay it as long as possible, but rather to stand victorious over it, along with those I love who have already died, and, subject to God’s timing, with my children and grand-children and great-great-great-great-grandchildren.

This is my hope and prayer for Mitchell.  For Crosby.  For everyone who when faced with disaster can only muster half-hearted and vague hopes.  My prayer is that they embrace the assurance offered by God in midst of human geography and history.  My prayer is that they find that there is real hope, something really to look forward to even as they enjoy each day of their lives.  Our state religion can’t provide that, only Jesus can.

Not Just Me

June 27, 2015

In case you’re inclined to think that my previous post was a lot of unsolicited unfounded silliness, perhaps you’d prefer CNN’s summary of the situation, which tips the hat to the Supreme Court minority opinion papers.  The impacts of this ruling are going to be pervasive through almost every element of American society and culture.  It cannot be otherwise.

Where Were You?

June 26, 2015

A hallway in my high school, enjoying the privileges of a newspaper press pass when I went by the A/V area and noticed people gathered around a television screen.  That’s where I was when the space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986.

Just waking up before starting a day of teaching college students.  A phone call from my parents telling me to turn on the television.  That’s where I was on the morning of September, 2001, arguably the most defining turn in American culture and politics since the Civil War.

Waking up in a hotel room in California with a text from a colleague in Nebraska.  Turning on the television to try and wake up before gathering with 300 Lutheran pastors and lay people for a District Convention.  That’s where I was when the Supreme Court confirmed yet another undeniably critical turning point in American culture and politics.

If you’ve been on Facebook you’re undoubtedly already inundated with all sorts of comments and graphics and other stuff regarding same-sex marriage.  For years proponents of this change argued that it was no big deal.  Same-sex marriage will have zero impact on heterosexual marriages and families.  A lot of people believed that and a lot didn’t.  Now it doesn’t matter because just five people have redefined marriage for a nation of over 300 million people.  Of whom less than five million are same-sex oriented.

The impact of this ruling isn’t going to change marriage landscape for today’s adults much.  At the convention the most expressed concern was how it would impact churches and their ability to do weddings.  This isn’t the biggest issue by a long shot.  First off, at least for the time being, churches will retain their right to religious beliefs that exempt them from being forced to perform same-sex weddings.  While it’s clear that such freedoms are in serious jeopardy based on comments from certain presidential candidates, freedom of religion will hold for the time being.  And when the law changes and we’re no longer allowed to refuse same-sex weddings because of religious belief, then we’ll simply give up doing weddings all together.

No, the biggest immediate danger to Christians isn’t going to revolve around being forced to conduct same-sex weddings.  Rather, the biggest danger will be how radically this Supreme Court decision will alter the world your children and grandchildren grow up in.  Same-sex proponents have been lobbying aggressively for the last decade to rework curriculum in primary and secondary educational institutions to push for greater exposure to and approval of same-sex individuals and lifestyles.  Entire states have been mandated to change their history curriculum to highlight same-sex individuals of historical significance.

Religious schools are where the impacts of this Supreme Court ruling will be felt first.  I expect that any Christian (or Muslim, or Jewish, or Mormon) school that accepts Federal aid of any kind, or relies on Federal student loan programs will be rapidly pressured to alter their curriculum, suppress their religious convictions, or face the removal of eligibility for Federal aid and Federal student loan monies.

Your children and grandchildren are already being shown in media that homosexuality and alternative lifestyles are acceptable and cool.  Increasingly their curriculum will insist that they affirm these values or risk failing tests, essays, classes, perhaps even entire grades.  If your child goes to a public school, you need to watch for these things carefully.  You need to sit down with your children and grandchildren and your family and talk about what it is they’re going to hear and see and be told to believe and accept.  The dream of a prestigious academic career for your children or grandchildren will be more and more directly challenged and even thwarted in public schools if students are not willing to conform to expected beliefs and even practices.

And as a heads up, just because those young people go to church every Sunday doesn’t mean they’re equipped to deal with the thoroughness of their indoctrination otherwise.  Pastors and youth leaders and congregations are going to need to figure out how they equip their young people to deal with what they are being told to say and believe in school.  Congregations need to take this very seriously.  Many congregations are already struggling for survival.  How many congregations continue to survive will, I believe, be based around how well the Church does what the same-sex lobbyists began doing decades ago – taking seriously the fight for the hearts and minds of the next generation(s).

Convention-Bound

June 23, 2015

I head to our polity’s regional convention this week.  I can’t say that I’m looking forward to it particularly.  I don’t like meetings, and I don’t like large groups of people.  I dislike posturing (political or otherwise) and too often the things that go on at these gatherings (every three years) are not in any way directly related to pastoral ministry in a congregation.

Needless to say I’m a poor salesperson for these events to my congregation, which is undoubtedly unfortunate.  I am grateful for the interest that our congregational leadership took in this event.  I am grateful for brother pastors to discuss things with both prior to and during the convention.

Walking together in the faith can be a pain in the butt.  It sounds noble and glorious and beautiful but it’s frankly a lot of work.  Just as it’s a lot of work to place yourself in a Christian community and allow yourself time to grow roots.  It’s a lot easier to stay at home than it is to get up and get to church.  Yet it is in church that we receive the gifts of God in Word and Sacrament, and where we learn very practical skills in loving our neighbor.  Likewise at various polity levels, it’s a lot easier to grouse about the inefficiency or waste or posturing and find excuses to not go.  But going reminds me and my congregation that we are not Lone Rangers, but rather part of a larger community of faith that is in turn part of the body of Christ.

As we learned firsthand in our Christian communal living experiment a decade ago, our cultural value of efficiency is rarely commensurate with learning to live with and love one another.  These abilities are messy and take time and are never truly perfect.  So I am grateful for a polity that deals with my warts – congregationally and professionally – yet welcomes me with the grace of Christ.  May I keep that in mind this week!

This Makes Me Uncomfortable

June 22, 2015

This is a fascinating article.  It talks about some Catholic priests who gathered together to perform a mass exorcism on the entire country of Mexico.

I’ll start out by saying that exorcisms are Biblical and I see nothing in the Bible that would indicate that they are no longer possible today.  That being said, all of the Biblical examples of exorcism involve a single individual.  Sometimes multiple demons (Mark 5:1-20), but a single individual.  I’m willing to even imagine that small-scale group exorcisms could be performed.  I’ve done house blessings before which, while not necessarily exorcising evil spirits, should do what the end of this article describes – giving people some “breathing space” and fortification.  I imagine an exorcist might be able to drive out demons from several people at once.

But an entire country?

That seems problematic.  For starters, if this is a thing, why is it only being done for the first time now?  Why haven’t national exorcisms been ongoing?  Secondly, if such a process is effective, why limit it to a single country?  Why not exorcise all of Central America?  Or for that matter, why not the entire planet earth?  Wouldn’t it be nice to know that there were no more demons loose on our planet, that they were all shivering their collective butts off on Jupiter or Mars?  Could we exorcise our solar system, to ensure that we’re safe from demonic re-infiltration even as we aspire to sending humans deeper into space?  By driving the demons out of Mexico does that mean that there are more demons elsewhere?

The Church certainly has been given some authority and power against evil, but I don’t see how something on this scale can be not just rationalized but justified.  Evil is with us and there are powers that are at play to be certain.  Freeing one person from demonic power could mean that another person is put at risk.  Imagine that on a national level and things get even more interesting.

Thoughts?  Experiences?  I’d feel more comfortable with this if it seemed less symbolic (and therefore ultimately lessening of the seriousness with which both demons and exorcism are treated).

Reading Ramblings – June 28, 2015

June 21, 2015

Reading Ramblings

Date: Fifth Sunday after Pentecost – June 28, 2015

Texts: Lamentations 3:22-33; Psalm 30; 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43

Context: The Old Testament, Psalm, and Gospel lessons today work together around a theme of patience and trusting in the Lord. In a culture where we expect instantaneous gratification and response, where any little delay chafes us and makes us irritable, we are called to faithfulness in God’s plan of salvation wherein we are not the main characters. We are part of His story and His glory.

Lamentations 3:22-33 – After two chapters depicting the suffering and destruction of God’s people in general and the holy city of Jerusalem, chapter 3 takes on a more personal tone. The beginning of this chapter is a brutal depiction of a man in the midst of great and horrific suffering in every sense of the word. Our section for this morning is a call to perseverance in the face of trial and suffering of the worst kind, culminating with the strong assertion that whatever suffering we must endure for this span of time, our suffering will not last forever. In the Lord there is not only the hope of deliverance but the assurance of it. Whether it comes in the time and fashion we would prefer or not is irrelevant. The Lord will deliver us! We would say that this has been fulfilled with Jesus’ death and resurrection, though we will not experience the fullness of our deliverance until He comes again in power and glory.

Psalm 30 – This is a psalm of thanksgiving for the Lord’s deliverance, for the temporal fulfillment of the promises mentioned in Lamentations. The speaker recounts his rescue by the Lord (verses 1-2) and exhorts the assembly to join with him in praise (verses 4-5) because the Lord’s anger with his creation is not forever. As such, we are sometimes prone to pride, assuming that our blessings are within our own power (verse 6). Yet it is the Lord who provides such blessings, and who sometimes removes them, perhaps to call us to proper praise of him (verse 7). In the midst of our sufferings we remember that God has mastery over all things, even death itself, and we call to him for help knowing that He has assured it in advance (verses 8-10). As such we give him praise, praise that is not as temporary as our blessings and life here and now, but eternal praise, fit for the promised eternal blessings of our God (verses 11-12).

2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15 – It is the privilege of the Christian to share one another’s burdens. We lift up prayers for our brothers & sisters in the faith who suffer, but we also take seriously the privilege of providing material assistance as possible. We have any number of ways of doing this, and Christians remain the most generous people in terms of an outpouring of assistance in times of natural disaster and other crises. We should also take this seriously in terms of local Christian community. This means not only a willingness to give of our blessings, but also the humility to be honest about our needs. Culturally we are conditioned to be self-sufficient and we see financial and other physical struggles almost as a moral shortcoming. While sometimes this may be the case, it is the Christian’s privilege to stand with one another and support one another, knowing that our brothers & sisters in Christ should stand ready to come to our aid when necessary.

Keeping a balance is important. Sending all of our gifts and donations overseas might be laudable, unless it results in us being stingy with the people that we know here around us. Likewise excessive focus on local needs to the exclusion of international needs demonstrates a narrowness of vision that prevents us from seeing the Body of Christ in a fuller sense.

Mark 5:21-43 – Several accounts of waiting and deliverance. Jairus desperately wants Jesus to come and heal his daughter. The woman with the flow of blood has suffered for years and years. In each case faithful perseverance results in unexpected deliverance. A massive crowd accompanies them, yet it is only the faith of Jairus and the unnamed woman that are detailed. How easy it is to be a spectator, to gawk even from close quarters, to film on our iPhones rather than engaging with our Lord in prayer and supplication and faith!

Both of the healings are dramatic and public, even though the details are hidden from view. The woman merely touches the hem of Jesus’ robe and is healed. Yet He does not allow her to slink away, but rather calls her out, so that all might know of her healing and that He is the source of it. Likewise none of the mourners are allowed to witness Jesus with the dead daughter of Jairus, but it is clear to everyone afterwards that He is the source of her restoration. To ensure that there could be no confusion, that the girl’s body was not stolen and a conjured spirit sent out to the assembled crowd Jesus orders that they give her food to eat. Her restoration is every bit as full and complete as the woman in the crowd., though the girl herself cannot be said to participate in her restoration at all.

This is important. We might be tempted to focus on the faith of those involved as the reason for healing and restoration. Yet the woman seems to act more out of desperation than clear faith in Jesus. She has lost everything in pursuit of her health, and she has nothing to lose by reaching out and risking castigation for touching Jesus’ clothing (which would make him ritually unclean). As for the little girl, she is passive, a recipient of the goodness of God’s grace so that God might be glorified and the person and work of the Son of God demonstrated to have the power of God in word and deed. It is God’s grace and goodness that should be highlighted in each of these stories, rather than glorifying an individual’s faith.

Yet there is to be commended in each situation a tenacity and trust. The woman is willing to risk disappointment once again. She is willing to try Jesus. Likewise Jairus is willing to trust Jesus when he is told not to be afraid and to believe. It is only the faith of desperation, the faith of last resort, the faith as small as a mustard seed which receives the blessings and promises of God. It is the faith that knows even itself as inadequate that throws itself fully on the mercy and promises of God.

Dear General Electric

June 20, 2015

I am not a do-it-your-selfer.  The prospect of trying to fix things that I did not myself in some manner create is very intimidating.  I am ashamed to admit that if something quits working my first assumption is that it’s time to get a new one.  I am also not the kind of person that writes letters to manufacturers thanking them for their products.  I believe it is the manufacturer’s job to create a good, quality, long-lasting product.  For that they should be compensated fairly and expect to make a reasonable profit.  Everyone is happy.  Kudos are not in order in this arrangement.

However, there are exceptions to everything.

We were blessed to purchase our home and said home includes one of your 1959 wall-ovens.  We jokingly asked the man we bought the house from if the oven even worked.  He assured us that it not only worked, if anything it was a bit on the hot side.  His words proved true over the past two-and-a-half years of baking and general food creation.

However I was not surprised when a few weeks ago the oven quit heating properly.  It’s over 50 years old.  Of course it’s going to break!  And, typical to my nature, I presumed that we just had to buy a new oven.  Until I realized how expensive those puppies are now-a-days.  Which prompted me to do a bit more troubleshooting.  I discovered that the bottom element had corroded in one spot.  I then discovered that this is called the bake element (as opposed to the top element, which is the broil element and still worked fine).  Half-heartedly I Googled to see if you could get a replacement bake element for a 50+ year old GE oven.  The Home Depot carries one that looks like the old one, and has the same measurements.  I ordered it, still fairly convinced that I was wasting $37 because it wouldn’t work or be able to connect to this ancient oven.

I was wrong.

I installed it in about 5 minutes, flat.  The connectors are exactly the same as 50 years ago.  The plate that secures the element to the back of the stove was designed in such a way as to accommodate the original mounting screw locations.  I have rarely had any project go so smoothly and easily.  I am amazed and so very, very grateful.  Thank you for not gratuitously changing the type of elements and connectors and what-not in your ovens, or at least for continuing to provide elements that are compatible with your older models.  You made me feel like a genius in solving this problem, but the real genius is your engineers.  I hope you’re paying them their pensions as you promised them.  They’ve earned it.

P.S. – Your electrical schematics were exactly where you claimed they would be – hidden behind the control panel in a very, very brittle little envelope.  I have no idea what they mean, but I’m impressed that after 50+ years of baking, the schematics were intact and readable.  Impressive!

The Little Things

June 19, 2015

Trying to get ready for all the busy-ness of summer and travel and other blessings, we’ve faced a series of those inevitable issues that temper the blessing of home-ownership.  Little things going wrong.  The bake element in the (1959) oven falling apart.  A leaky shower.  Leaky toilet.

I read this morning somewhere (I can’t for the life of me find it again) about a business two college students launched to do chores for students, presumably taking care of those little annoying necessities like laundry and house cleaning, maybe cooking and some light yard work.  I briefly thought to myself Man, that’s what I need.  I need to outsource all this piddly stuff so that I can focus on doing what I need to be doing.  Imagine what I could accomplish if I didn’t have to try and figure out how to install a new bake element.

Then it struck me that, if I could characterize one troubling aspect of younger generations, this is it.  A disinterest in the little stuff.  Wanting to obsess about the Big Picture while the Small, Very Real Picture goes to hell in a hand-basket.  Wanting glory without the effort necessary to achieve it.  Wanting to live life without doing all the things that actually go into living a life.  When our world consists of endless selfies and odes to moments of personal greatness, it’s easy to fall prey to our own propaganda, to believe that our lives consist or should consist only of moment after moment of rapture, delight, joy, glory, extra-ordinariness.

The truth is the majority of life is ordinary and simple and basic and almost mind-numbingly so.  It’s fixing the oven and the shower and the toilet, making sure the family is fed and clothed and the bills are paid on time and all the other stuff that nobody really likes, yet nearly everyone spends the majority of their time tending to.  This is reality.  An endless selfie montage of buying toilet paper and washing dishes and picking up dog poop.  It is an explosion of ordinary-ness, an avalanche of routine.  Day in, day out.  This is what makes us who we are.  How we deal with the mundane, whether we allow it to overwhelm us to the point where we can’t or won’t function, or whether we plod through it, grateful for the reassurance of normality.

If I outsourced the mundane necessities of my life, there might be precious little left to fill the time.  In the process, I lose the character-defining and maintaining discipline of dealing with reality instead of the idyllic parody of reality it’s easy to project for oneself.  If you don’t pick up your dog’s poop, how do you retain a proper sense of identity?

So thank you, God, for the blessing of the routine and the mundane and the boring and the essential.  Thank you for the blessing of providing these things to others in my family, and thank you for the family that provided them to me and modeled them to me when I was younger.  And help those college entrepreneurs to find a better business model to pursue, so that others can be blessed to deal with their own realities more as well.